In Switzerland politicians are not idolized and people don’t exaggerate their importance either to do good, or do bad. Americans and Canadians could learn from the Swizz. The people elect 220 members of the Assembly who in turn elect the Ministers. That is sort of like Canada. The members of the Assembly also elect the President. With a system like that no one makes a big deal about who the President is. It really does not matter that much. One of the things that our tour leader said I found most interesting. She said that many people in Switzerland do not know who their current President is. I think that is cool and a good sign of a healthy democracy.
Swiss independence was recognized in 1648 during the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the bloody 30 Years War, caused by religious differences that got out of hand. The country is formally neutral, but it is armed. Our tour leader explained that recently the government debated whether or not it should invest in new fighter jets at a cost of billions. Eventually it decided that it did not make sense to buy jets that could travel right across the country in 6 minutes! Wow, how sensible can you get?
Our first destination today was Mount Pilatus–a mountain that rises 6,981 feet. From the gondola we took to the summit we had glorious views of the mountain. Below we could see hikers, coniferous trees, cows (with bells) and numerous varieties of wild flowers. For a flower child like me, it was very difficult not to spend all my time there. I would love to hike it some day. Perhaps when I am not so old. To get down the mountain again we took a cogwheel train
The ride on the cogwheel train is amazing. The cogwheel train that we took down the mountain was incredibly steep. Apparently it drove down at 48° at some points. I wish I could have seen that from the outside. From inside the rail car it is not easy to see.
When we got down to the bottom of the mountain we got back on our coach and drove along the Lake of the 4 Cantons to Luzern. I really think the city centre is one of the most beautiful in Europe. Chris to my disappointment was not quite as enamoured of it as I was.
I think that Luzern is one of the great cities of Europe. Mark Twain was in my camp. He thought that when he visited Luzern in 1878 that he had found a place of enchantment. He loved the way the town “scrambles up and spreads itself over two or three hills in a crowded, disorderly, but picturesque way.” I love disorderly and picturesque. Crowded not so much.
I have been told that Luzern has not changed that much from 1878. It does have a stunning combination of a romantic city set in lovely mountains. There was magnificent beauty to be found here. One only had to look around the tourists. I think it is one of the most beautiful city centres I have ever seen. The old buildings, bridges and churches were stunning.
A highlight was, of course, the ancient bridge called Kapellbrücke with Wasserturm. This is an outstanding feature of this sparkling city. It is a wooden bridge that stretches more than 660 feet long on stilts over the River Reuss.
Luzern has a strong claim to civilization. Its magnificent preservation of history is powerful evidence to support its claim. It likes to be considered the ‘City of Music.” If that is true it is truly civilized. Music is certainly one of the important markers of a civilized society. The city refers to itself as a city of festivals throughout the year.
The Hapsburgs purchased the town (how do you purchase towns?) in 1291 from the owner of the town Murbach Abbey in Alsace. In 1332 Luzern joined the Swiss Confederation. The people of Luzern were not always enamoured of their Hapsburg “owners.” In 1386 they were so unhappy with the Hapsburgs that they won their freedom in the Battle of Sempach. After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century Luzern became a Catholic of the Counter -Reformation challenging the Protestants.
Near the end of our walk we encountered a loud group of boisterous marching young men banging drums and shouting incomprehensibly. It looked like the revolution had begun. We wondered if this was a political group protesting an injustice or a soccer team celebrating their own greatness. Soon we realized it was the latter. While we were glad to be safe, we were sorry to have missed out on history. As I have always said, “Start the revolution without me.” I will join later—when its safe.
Our walk was pitifully short for such a wonderful place, but is one of the hazards of travel. Good things are of too short a duration; pain last interminably. Too soon we were herded back into our coaches to continue our journey. Everything led to the ship.
In Basel we moved in to our Riverboat Imagery II operated by Avalon. We loved the ship. We particularly loved the large open windows that in effect made the entire cabin a balcony. We had been “sold” on this in Canada but were a bit sceptical that it would work. It worked wonderfully. The best things on the ship though were outstanding food, copious amounts of wine or beer served with meals, and the amazing group of friends that we made.
After we checked in with front desk we went directly to the bar without passing go. Chris had a Jameson and I had dark rum. This was a start of things to come. Frankly, and I must tell the truth in the chronicles, no matter how scurrilous that truth is, on this trip we drank too much. Part of the problem was the many good friends we made on this trip. My mother always said that I was a very nice boy but bad associates were leading me astray. I have always agreed with this unbiased assessment.